PTC city manager ousted; documents show rift with mayor
REVISED VERSION 5:32 p.m. Oct. 25, 2010 — The annual performance evaluation of Peachtree City City Manager Bernie McMullen, whose separation agreement was unanimously approved Thursday night by the City Council, showed that Mayor Don Haddix had dissatisfaction with the way McMullen was performing his job.
In a written rebuke of that May evaluation, McMullen said he felt the evaluation “is a libel attack by Mr. Haddix because of the fact that I have opposed him on issues such as the renovation of the police headquarters building in 2008. I challenged his unfounded claims and looked out for the citizens of Peachtree City.”
The city spent $800,000 to repair the police station instead of building a new one on a different location as Haddix suggested at a projected cost of $3 million or more.
Following Haddix’s critical review of McMullen, Councilwoman Vanessa Fleisch filed a glowing review of the city manager’s performance in late September. In that letter, Fleisch noted that the city charter requires the mayor and City Council to conduct the review “and it is my impression that the written evaluation was completed prior to any kind of input by council which is not in keeping with the spirit of the city charter.”
The Citizen has asked for a copy of the separation agreement approved by the City Council Thursday night that will result in McMullen’s last day being Dec. 31. City spokesperson Betsy Tyler indicated that document will be available tomorrow (Tuesday) but also provided a host of other documents sought by The Citizen, including the performance evaluation authored by Haddix and also McMullen’s written response to the evaluation.
Mayor Don Haddix today declined to comment on any of the details contained in the separation agreement.
One of the more significant allegations in Haddix’s evaluation of McMullen was that McMullen was being forwarded blind carbon copies of emails the City Council received from citizens “without informing Council.”
McMullen, in response, said that is not the case, but his email address has been part of the group email address for “firstname.lastname@example.org” which automatically sends emails to all council members.
“Based on past experience this has enabled me to provide information and react directly to complaints from citizens if I realized that Council would not have the information to address the issue and provide answers, or it was an item that needed immediate action,” McMullen wrote.
McMullen also noted that based on the comments in his evaluation, he asked city staff to remove his email address from getting emails sent to the email@example.com address.
Haddix’s evaluation of McMullen listed four specific shortcomings, which were rebutted by McMullen including:
• A four-month delay in reaching agreements “with certain parties” about completing the paths to the MacDuff Parkway cart path tunnel; McMullen said the delay was clearly due to a lack of funding for the project as he cited a number of emails that were sent to that affect.
• Another delay in moving the city’s Welcome Center from its previous location at the city’s tennis center to its new space adjacent to the city amphitheater offices; McMullen said that was a false statement, indicating no such delay existed;
• Stating at a workshop that the city’s tennis center “was an asset that should not be considered for sale,” despite having said earlier at City Hall that “selling the tennis center was good for the city.” McMullen in his rebuttal denies ever making such comments, noting that he and Finance Director Paul Salvatore responded to then councilman Haddix’s questions about the tennis center in 2008 to say that the advantage to selling it would be a savings to the city of the $247,000 in loan payments the city is making.
• Haddix also claimed that McMullen said he had “no knowledge” of a city director requesting that the city’s Library Commission dissolve itself without consulting Council in advance. McMullen also denied this suggestion, saying he knew of the request from Leisure Services Director Randy Gaddo, which was backed up by emails on the topic.
In her letter on McMullen’s performance, Fleisch said she felt McMullen was always very approachable and accessible.
“He is always willing to give a straight answer to any question even if he knows we may not be in agreement on a certain issue,” Fleisch wrote.
Haddix’s May 19 appraisal of McMullen cited the following problems, among other issues:
• “Carrying out Mayoral and/or Council directives by giving instruction to department heads in a timely manner.”;
• “Notifying the Mayor and/or Council of any conflicts or problems in a timely manner.”;
• “Ensuring directives are carried out in a timely manner.”; and
• Placing items as directed by Council into the budget.
McMullen was hired in May 2003 by the City Council consisting of Mayor Steve Brown and council members Annie McMenamin, Steve Rapson, Dan Tennant and Murray Weed.
One notable issue in McMullen’s tenure was his June 2006 arrest for driving under the influence after driving a golf cart while holding a glass of wine in his hand as he drove up to two high-ranking officers following a concert at the city’s amphitheater. McMullen, who registered a .104 blood alcohol content on a breath test, above the state’s .08 BAC limit, later pled guilty to the charge in Fayette County State Court.
McMullen was sentenced to spend 24 hours in jail as required by Georgia law, an $800 fine, a year’s probation, 40 hours of community service and several other conditions such as a ban on alcohol consumption with random drug and alcohol screening.
Over the past several years McMullen has presided over deep cuts to the city’s budget as millions were scalped, necessitating the dismissal of some 23 city employees as the city switched to a landscape contractor to handling landscaping of city property including parks, medians and the like.
This year less drastic cuts were enacted as the City Council approved a 1.25 millage rate hike, meaning that some residents would pay more in property taxes this year, except for those whose property values declined such that it in effect cancelled out the tax rate increase that would have been assessed on such a property.
FIRST VERSION 10:28 a.m. Oct. 25, 2010 —
By BEN NELMS
Peachtree City Manager Bernie McMullen’s last day of heading up operations for the city will be Dec. 31. The City Council Thursday night voted after executive session to accept McMullen’s separation agreement.
Mayor Don Haddix said Monday that the move is essentially an agreement to part ways. Haddix said the discussion came during the executive session portion of the council meeting last Thursday.
“(McMullen and the council) had a discussion and the council voted (in open session) to accept that he wasn’t going to be returning,” Haddix said, noting that McMullen’s annual contract expires on Dec. 31.
Haddix said he could not elaborate on the specifics of the decision or on any compensation package, noting that those issues involved confidential personnel matters. McMullen serves as an at-will employee.
Haddix said the vote to accept the separation agreement was unanimous.